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2023's worst movies: Franchise and arthouse failures, streaming debacles

De-aging Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) was the least of "Dial of Destiny"'s visual effects woes. Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.
1 of 5 | De-aging Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) was the least of "Dial of Destiny"'s visual effects woes. Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- You didn't need to go to the theaters to see some of the worst movies of the year.

Streaming originals have been a force in Hollywood for at least 10 years now, so perhaps it is a sign that they've made it when major streaming titles can join vapid blockbusters among the worst of the year.

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Even arthouse offerings had some letdowns, from usually reliable filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Emerald Fennell. Perhaps nothing this year was as frustrating as last year's The Bubble, or as toxic as Ticket to Paradise, but this list is still rather dire. Don't worry, the best of the year comes Thursday. Find links to our full reviews for more elaboration.

10. 'Peter Pan and Wendy'

Thankfully, Disney will run out of animated movies to remake in live action sooner than later. Until it does, there are sure to be more lackluster obligatory entries like this than blockbusters like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. While not as disastrous as last year's Pinocchio, Peter Pan and Wendy still takes all the fun and excitement out of the animated adaptation.

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9. 'Asteroid City'

Though there is certainly more craft on display than in many of the streaming movies below, the script mistakes musings for poignancy and convoluted narrative tricks for whimsy. It makes the craft more frustrating to see it applied to a meandering plot with unfocused themes. This is by comparison to Wes Anderson's own signature style in previous superior efforts.

8. 'Saltburn'

The world of rich snobs isn't all that interesting to begin with. It completely falls apart when it treats an interloper's machinations as some sort of profound takedown. Shock value becomes shock for its own sake, therefore devoid of impact.

7. 'Vacation Friends 2'

With the sequel to a bad comedy, one can expect to see more of the same. Vacation Friends 2 is perhaps even worse because it adds more annoying characters and presumes to further the core ensemble's relationships, while failing to do so and failing to invent clever, funny situations for them.

6. 'Family Switch'

When big comedy energy goes too far, it feels more like being attacked than entertained. It's even worse when it's all intensity and no material. This movie substitutes dancing for jokes because every time characters are dancing, they don't have to be clever. And yet, the actors still had to learn the choreography. What a waste when a body swap comedy contains more dances than jokes about characters being in the wrong body. And if siblings being forced to kiss while inhabiting their parents' bodies sounds hilarious, then you're probably one of the filmmakers behind Family Switch.

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5. 'White Men Can't Jump'

A remake doesn't have to be better than the original. It need only be entertaining in its own right. This remake doesn't seem to get what was funny about the original, and seems scared to tackle its touchiest subjects.

4. 'Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania'

As proof that some things are better left to the imagination, Ant-Man spent an entire movie in the Quantum Realm, the legendary microscopic subspace teased in previous movies. It's especially misguided when Ant-Man's main super power is shrinking. Sending him to a subatomic world renders his power moot. Plus, the film separates the heroes for side quests and substitutes nonsense exposition for the franchise's comedy.

3. 'Meg 2: The Trench'

This sequel turned a joyously silly monster movie into a boring, convoluted mess. There will probably be a Meg 3, but it's clear the original was a fluke.

2. 'Ghosted'

Movies this bad certainly come out in theaters, but the fact that it's a streaming original highlights a problem with new companies trying to copy successful formulas. They've got charismatic leads with Ana De Armas as an action heroine and Chris Evans, her needy love interest, but their interactions are more cringe-worthy than adorable. It truly feels like robots mimicking human behavior, or at least the human behavior they saw in movies, while the action scenes barely have a pulse.

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1. 'Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny'

UPI's review complained that most of the movie looked like the actors were performing in front of screens. Behind-the-scenes materials show that perhaps some of those sequences were, in fact, shot on location. That makes it even worse. If they're adding so much digital tweaking that even location work looks fake, what is even the point?

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